It was the biggest party Downtown L.A. has seen in years — the Lakers and 18,997 of their closest friends.
Coming off a loss in Memphis, yet with a series victory in their sights, the Lakers pulverized the Grizzlies by 40 points in one of the most lopsided games in franchise playoff history.
In knocking off second-seeded Memphis, the Lakers became the first seven seed to win their first-round series in 13 years. They also became the lowest-seeded team in franchise history to advance.
L.A.’s low seed was due mostly to a 2-10 start to the season that they spent the entire season trying to crawl out of. Since the All-Star Break, they have a league-best 21-9 record. They will begin their second-round series against the winner of Golden State-Sacramento on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t stop here,” Anthony Davis said in his walk-off interview with ESPN. “We’re not satisfied. We’re happy we were able to get to the second round, but weren’t satisfied. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
After losing in Game 5, Davis told reporters that he was ready to play all 48 minutes if needed. He ended up needing only 28, as the Lakers bullied the Grizzlies all night long.
Davis — who was a behemoth defensively all series — utterly destroyed Memphis on both sides of the ball. He finished with 16 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in his limited time, but those all-encompassing numbers fail to illustrate his dominance.
He was relentless attacking the basket, throwing down several dunks, including a poster alley-oop over Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr.
But he was arguably more impressive on the other side, raising his series total to 26 blocks — the most by any player in a six-game playoff span since Serge Ibaka 13 years ago.
“He was AD,” LeBron James said. “Basketball guys know. The competitions knows. How dominant he is defensively. He was AD. He was spectacular.”
Spectacular is underselling it. Davis’ presence in the paint was a large reason the Grizzlies failed to find any traction, including their all-star duo of Jackson and Ja Morant, who combined to shoot just 6-of-28 from the field.
The Grizzlies’ 85 points were the fewest allowed by the Lakers all season. And, led by Davis, the Purple and Gold tied their franchise record with 15 blocks.
Meanwhile, James held up his end of the bargain as well, dropping 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting with six assists. The 20-year veteran even threw down an acrobatic reverse dunk to cap the first half onslaught.
LeBron’s fireworks were part of an interior domination that saw the Lakers outscore their visitors 52-32 in the paint and 24-14 on fast-breaks.
While Davis and James took care of business inside, D’Angelo Russell was a one-man battalion from behind the arc.
He finished with the greatest game of his playoff career, dropping a personal-best 31 points, which included five 3-pointers — all during the Lakers’ second-half tidal wave.
But he wasn’t going to let his teammates have all of the fun inside, also attacking off the dribble for several mid-range pull ups and short-range paint jumpers.
Now Russell and co. will look to continue their winning ways against the second-seeded Kings or defending-champion Warriors.
“This thing is just getting started,” head coach Darvin Ham said. “We passed level one. Now we’ve got to start shifting our focus to whoever comes out of that game on Sunday. … We have to be the best versions of ourselves.”